The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: Poems

Overview

Joy Harjo, one of this country's foremost Native American voices, combines elements of storytelling, prayer, and song, informed by her interest in jazz and by her North American tribal background, in this, her fourth volume of poetry. She is a mythic, visionary, and spiritual poet who draws from the Native American tradition of praising the land and the spirit, the realities of American culture, and the concept of feminine individuality. In describing this volume Harjo has said: "I believe that the word poet is ...
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Overview

Joy Harjo, one of this country's foremost Native American voices, combines elements of storytelling, prayer, and song, informed by her interest in jazz and by her North American tribal background, in this, her fourth volume of poetry. She is a mythic, visionary, and spiritual poet who draws from the Native American tradition of praising the land and the spirit, the realities of American culture, and the concept of feminine individuality. In describing this volume Harjo has said: "I believe that the word poet is synonymous with the word truth teller. So this collection tells a bit of the truth of what I have seen since my coming of age in the late sixties."
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
``The leap between the sacred and profane is as thin as fishing line.'' In her seventh book, Harjo (Secrets from the Center of the World), a member of the Creek tribe, makes this leap time after time. Working with a diction and a syntax that seem deliberately plain and declarative, she invokes ancient Native American myth, often from the midst of ordinary contemporary places such as Brooklyn, N.Y.; Washington, D.C.; and Chicago's O'Hare airport (``Chicago rose up as a mechanical giant with soft insides buzzing''). Her myths endow everyday experience with a transformative meaning that rescues Harjo's characters from their sometimes isolating individuality. Yet the myths also heed the details of individual experience as ``the single complicated human becomes a wave of humanness.'' The warmth of her universalizing gift is inclusive, collecting the lives of taxi drivers, an infant granddaughter, and ``an Apache man who is passing by my table in a restaurant.'' Readers may likewise feel swept up in the gentle wave of Harjo's poetry and prose poetry, where ``every day is a reenactment of the creation story.'' (Dec.)
Library Journal
Harjo (In Mad Love and War, Wesleyan Univ. Pr., 1990), a member of the Muscogee tribe, explores in these transcendent poems the myths imbedded in tribal memory and the spirituality they impart to everyday life.
Pat Monaghan
If Whitman were a Muskogee jazzman, he would have written this. In her fourth book, Harjo fulfills her earlier promise in a stunning, mature, wholehearted, musical series of poems. The title poem, based on an Iroquoian myth of the falling creatrix, is typical of the transformations she works: the goddess becomes a "strange beauty in heels" who falls through a plateglass grocery window and is aided and redeemed by a lost Indian named Saint Coincidence, whom she in turn redeems. In another lush narrative, an Indian veteran vouchsafes his tale of redemption of the spirit who is "never a stranger but a relative he'd never met." Harjo melds the present with the mythic past, seeing through time and space into a timeless, spacious abode of spirit. Short explanatory notes serve like the patter at a poetry reading, placing each poem in its philosophical and temporal context in this brilliant, unforgettable book.
Sandra Cisneros
“I fell in love with these poems, with their clarity and light, their wisdom born somewhere between sky and earth.”
Adrienne Rich
“I turn and return to Harjo's poetry for her breathtaking, complex witness and for her world-remaking language: precise, unsentimental, miraculous.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393037159
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 12/1/1994
  • Pages: 1
  • Product dimensions: 8.48 (w) x 11.46 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

Joy Harjo is an internationally known performer and writer of the Mvskoke/Creek Nation, the author of ten books of poetry and, most recently, a memoir, Crazy Brave. A critically acclaimed poet, her many honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the William Carlos Williams Award, and the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Reconciliation: A Prayer
I Tribal Memory
The Creation Story: "There are many versions of the creation story . . ." 3
The Woman Who Fell from the Sky: "I traveled far above the earth . . ." 5
The Naming: "I never liked my mother's mother . . ." 11
The Flood: "Embedded in Muscogee tribal memory . . ." 14
A Postcolonial Tale: "The landscape of the late twentieth century . . ." 18
Mourning Song: "In the city in which I live . . ." 20
Northern Lights: "I was invited up north once . . ." 22
Who Invented Death and Crows and is There Anything We Can Do to Calm the Noisy Clatter of Destruction? "When I hear crows talking . . ." 26
The Myth of Blackbirds: "I believe love is the strongest force in the world . . ." 28
The Song of the House in the House: "I believe an architectural structure is interactive . . ." 31
Insomnia and the Seven Steps to Grace: "I think of Bell's theorum . . ." 33
Letter from the End of the Twentieth Century: "I was in a downtown Chicago hotel room . . ." 35
II The World Ends Here
Witness: "The Indian wars never ended . . ." 41
Wolf Warrior: "One morning I prepared to see a friend off . . ." 44
Promise of Blue Horses: "The heart is constructed of a promise..." 48
Sonata for the Invisible: "My son called me once at three in the morning . . ." 49
The Place the Musician Became a Bear: "I heard about Jim Pepper . . ." 51
The Other Side of Yellow to Blue: "For weeks the tune 'Contemplation' . . ." 54
The Field of Miracles: "It's possible to understand the world . . ." 55
Petroglyph: "Jaune Quick-To-See Smith's paintings . . ." 58
Fishing: "A few weeks before he died . . ." 60
Promise: "The spring before my granddaughter Krista's birth . . ." 62
The Dawn Appears with Butterflies: "I was on my way to Tuba City . . ." 64
Perhaps the World Ends Here 68
MVTO
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